At least nine people were killed and dozens wounded in demonstrations across Turkey on Tuesday, local media reported, as Kurds demanded the government do more to protect the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani from Islamic State militants.
UPDATE: Death toll is now 14
Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters who burnt cars and tyres as they took to the streets mainly in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish eastern and southeastern provinces. Clashes also erupted in the biggest city Istanbul and in the capital Ankara.
Five people were killed in Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish city in the southeast, which saw clashes between protesters and police.
A 25-year-old man died in Varto, a town in the eastern province of Mus, and at least half a dozen people were wounded there in clashes between police and protesters, local media reported.
Two people died in southeastern Siirt province, the governor was quoted as saying by CNN Turk Television, and another died in neighbouring Batman. Curfews were imposed in five predominantly Kurdish southeastern provinces after the protests, in which shops and banks were damaged.
Interior Minister Efkan Ala called for an end to the protests. “Violence is not the solution. Violence triggers reprisals. This irrational attitude should come to an end immediately,” he told reporters.
Islamic State fighters have advanced into the southwest of Kobani, increasing pressure on Turkey to intervene in the conflict. The three-week-long assault on Kobani has cost 400 lives, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
NATO-member Turkey has taken in more than 180,000 refugees who fled Kobani but has refrained from joining a U.S.-led coalition against the Sunni Muslim militants, saying the campaign should be broadened to target the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Kurdish politicians, part of Turkey’s fragile peace process with the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to end a three-decade insurgency, have criticised Turkey for inaction.
Ankara rejected the criticism. “It is a massive lie that Turkey is doing nothing on Kobani,” Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said on Twitter. “Turkey is doing whatever can be done in humanitarian aspects.”
He accused Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of adopting an “irresponsible way of conducting politics” and called the protests “a big injustice to Turkey’s well-meant efforts”.
The Kurdish party had issued a statement saying: “The situation in Kobani is extremely critical. We call on our people to go out into the streets, or support those that have gone onto the streets, to protest the ISIL (Islamic State) attacks and the … stance of (Turkey’s) AKP government against Kobani.”
The fight in Kobani against Islamist militants has become a rallying point for Turkey’s Kurdish community. They see Ankara as partly responsible for Islamic State gaining power.
The situation in Kobani has also led to protests in European cities such as Brussels and Geneva, with hundreds holding PKK flags pouring onto the streets.
Analysts say the growing anger in the Kurdish community and violent protests risk derailing Turkey’s own shaky peace process. Akdogan said such violence will not be tolerated.
“It is irresponsible to create vulnerabilities within the peace process by using events that take place outside Turkey and Turkey is not directly involved in,” he said. (Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Janet Lawrence)